PUTRAJAYA: A single mother is asking the Federal Court to set aside a ruling allowing the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPs) to intervene and vary a custody order over her three children who are now alleged to be Muslims.
Loh Siew Hong filed the application for leave to appeal a Feb 7 Court of Appeal ruling by framing four questions of law.
She is asking whether a Perlis Islamic religious administration enactment gives powers to the state authorities to intervene in non-Muslim divorce matters.
Loh is also asking the apex court to determine whether MAIPs has passed the threshold under Rules of Court 2012 to be made a party in the custody matter.
Another question relates to whether Section 3(3) of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 operates to prohibit MAIPs from being made a party to vary the custody order.
The fourth question is whether the Court of Appeal’s ruling went against Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution that allows a parent or guardian to determine the religious status of children aged below 18.
Under Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964, Loh must satisfy the Federal Court that there are novel and constitutional questions of public importance and raised for the first time.
The application, sighted by FMT, was filed by Gunamalar Law Chambers yesterday.
Shamsher Singh Thind, a lawyer in Loh’s legal team, said the application had been fixed for case management on April 3.
Last month, the Court of Appeal held that MAIPs had made out a case under Order 15 Rule 6(2) of the Rules of Court 2012, read with Section 96 of the Law Reform Act.
Justice Has Zanah Mehat, who led a three-member bench, said a reading of the two provisions would confer upon the applicant (MAIPs) a legal right to intervene.
MAIPs had appealed against a High Court order last year that refused to allow it to intervene in the action.
Loh’s former husband, M Nagahswaran, is said to have taken the children to Perlis, where he unilaterally converted them to Islam on July 7, 2020.
The 15-year-old twin girls and an 11-year-old son were placed under the care and control of preacher Nazirah Nanthakumari Abdullah.
On March 31, 2020, the High Court granted Loh full custody of the children.
Loh’s divorce from Nagahswaran was finalised on Sept 23, 2021.
Loh also took out a habeas corpus application in the High Court, which was allowed by Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah in February last year.
That decision paved the way for a reunion between the mother and her children.
In March 2022, Loh filed a judicial review application to challenge the children’s unilateral conversion, which will be heard later this month.